7 December 2021: The ex king and his spies; Life in Spain; Genderbread folk; & Bethlehem again.

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable
Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Cosas de España/Galiza

The Don Carlos Story: Chapter 6: Spain’s disgraced ex king has told a London court that he is immune from legal action over allegations that he used the Spanish security services to spy on his estranged mistress. To whom, he gifted more than €60m.  ‘For ever’. As if. El Pais reports that the UK judge has called on Spain to advise whether the Juan Carlos is still part of royal family. Good question. More from The Guardian here.

Here’s Lenox Napier on living the good life in Spain. As I do. Usually, if not during this cold, miserable month.

Talking of living here . . . Who said this?: It’s too hot but I’ve fallen in love with Spain. Whoever it was, ze clearly wasn’t holidaying in Galicia. Unless it was on one of those summer days when the dial hits 35.

The Way of the World  

Do you know what a genderbread person is? And are you familiar with the LGBTQI2S glossary of relevant terms? No? Well, shape up!

Social Media

Facebook(Meta?) is being sued by in both the UK and the USA for fostering ethnic hatred in Myanmar – by allowing its platforms to be used to fuel the descent into hatred and violence. As someone has said: Facebook’s failure to combat the disinformation and lies on its platforms, much of it in violation of its community guidelines, is a case study in corporate evasiveness and wilful blindness. The lawsuits couldn’t happen to a nicer company.

A message to Facebook . . . Do you think it would be possible to stop sending me suggestions to join a group I’m already a member of? 

Finally . . . 

I mentioned that Belén is Spanish for both Bethlehem and ‘crib’. By coincidence, ex king Juan Carlos is represented in the UK by Sir Daniel Bethlehem QC – a former legal adviser to the British and Israeli governments.

This blog can be seen on Twitter and on the Facebook group page – Thoughts from Galicia.  

If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here.


It’s too hot but I’ve fallen in love with Spain, Virginia Woolf said. Writer’s letters from her travels published in new book: Isambard Wilkinson, The Times

“It is the light, of course; a million razor-blades have shaved off the bark and the dust, and out pours pure colour; whiteness from fig-trees; red and green and again white from the enormous, the humped, the everlasting landscape.” So wrote Virginia Woolf about Spain, which she described as “far the most magnificent country I have ever seen”.

Woolf’s writings on Spain, which have been gathered in a single volume for the first time, place her a long way from her customary Bloomsbury, which in those days was separated from her favoured parts of Iberia by a journey of boat, train, bus and mule. Her observations, published in a new book, Hacia el sur, (To the south), reveal Woolf to be an intrepid traveller slumming it in rustic inns and relishing basic dishes such as rice and bacon.

The descriptions, extracted from diaries, essays and letters from three visits in 1905, 1912 and 1923, have been translated into Spanish and collated by a specialist travel publisher, Itineraria. They may rank her among a handful of British writers about Spain in the 19th and 20th century, such as Richard Ford and Gerald Brenan, who have come to be called los curiosos impertinentes, the “presumptuous curious”, an expression coined much earlier as the title of a short story by Cervantes.

Her opinions are at times wonderfully offhand but often quite pertinent. She is a tough crowd. Seville’s cathedral is “not really beautiful, though certainly impressive— in the same way that a steep cliff or a bottomless well is”. The city’s Alcazar palace is “a splendid gilt & mosaic Moorish building —a sight again which does not charm me”. But her impertinence is often laced with humour. In a letter written in 1905, noting that the best part of going away was coming home, she adds “especially when you travel in Spain, where the trains stop to breathe every 5 minutes”.

Her delight at Spain and enjoyment of the adventure are ever-present, even when despairing of the country’s mosquitoes and hotels. From Tarragona she wrote to Lytton Strachey in 1912: “Several times the proper business of bed has been interrupted by mosquitoes. They bloody the wall by morning —they always choose my left eye, Leonard’s [her husband] right ear. Whatever position they chance to find us in.” It was during that trip, their honeymoon, she describes the country as the most magnificent. “The only fault we have to find with our journey is that it was a great deal too hot in Madrid and Toledo, and that these southern skies are too invariably blue. Occasionally we get an old copy of The Times, and there read of floods and cloudbursts.”

In a primitive inn, in which she was separated from fellow guests by a piece of canvas, she mentions her neighbours “sat late and talked loud . . . Spanish is a fierce and bloodthirsty language when heard under these conditions.” But she ended the anecdote by saying that when a violent knock came before dawn “there was no one more hostile than the peasant woman with a basin of goat’s milk in her hands”.

It was visiting Gerald Brenan in the Alpujarras mountains, below the Sierra Nevada, that inspired Woolf to write most ecstatically about Spain. The range, she wrote, consists “of stones, olive trees, goats, asphodels, irises, bushes, ridges, shelves, clumps, tufts, and hollows innumerable, indescribable, unthinkable”. In a sentence with which many travellers may sympathise, she said that Spain makes the mind’s contents break into short sentences: “It is hot; the old man; the frying pan; it is hot; the image of the Virgin; the bottle of wine; it is time for lunch; it is only half-past twelve; it is hot.”

Summing up her attraction to the country in a more prosaic way in a letter to a friend, she wrote: “I am amazed that we should live in England . . . when we might roll in bliss every moment of the day and sit and drink coffee on a balcony overlooking lemon trees and orange trees with mountains behind and every sort of colour and shade perpetually changing.”